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Fact vs. Fiction: Washington Post’s Poisonous Editorial on Speaker Pelosi

April 5, 2007

Today, the Washington Post published an editorial attacking Speaker Pelosi’s bipartisan delegation trip to the Middle East. In a telling sign, the poisonous editorial contradicts the Post’s own reporting on the Speaker’s visit to Syria.

The Facts

Speaker Pelosi accurately relayed a message given to her by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to Syrian President Assad.

The tough and serious message the Speaker relayed was that, in order for Israel to engage in talks with Syria, the Syrian government must eliminate its links with extremist elements, including Hamas and Hezbollah.

Furthermore, the Speaker told Assad that his government must also take steps to block militants seeking to cross the Syrian border into Iraq and that it must cease its ongoing efforts to destabilize Lebanon and to block the international community’s expressed desire for an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. The Speaker has no illusions about the nature of the regime in Syria.

The Post’s editorial misinterprets a statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, which sought merely to express that the message given to Speaker Pelosi did not indicate a change in Israel’s position toward Syria. The Speaker neither said nor implied that this message was a change in Israel’s position.

Most troubling, the editorial contradicts the Post’s own reporting on the bipartisan delegation, asserting that Pelosi is attempting to “establish a shadow presidency.” From the Post’s reporting by Elizabeth Williamson today: “Foreign policy experts generally agree that Pelosi’s dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip.” Clearly, this consensus opinion by policy experts was lost in the one page from Williamson’s reporting to the Post’s editorial page.

In fact, as The New York Times reported, Pelosi herself stated that she supports the President’s policy goals in Syria. She agrees, however, with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that constructive dialogue is a critical means of addressing our concerns with Syria. The Administration’s cold-shoulder approach has yielded nothing but more Syrian intransigence.

The delegation stressed to Assad that President Bush and the Congress are united in fighting terrorism and that, if Syria is interested in being part of that effort, it must rethink its association with Iran.

Five Republican Congressmen have visited Syrian President Assad in the last week – Congressmen David Hobson of Ohio, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Darrell Issa of California:

Congressman Hobson, the Republican member of the bipartisan Pelosi delegation, told the Dayton Daily News yesterday: “I think actually we’ve helped the administration’s position by showing there’s not dissension.” Hobson went on to say: “They (Democrats) have not gone around this region attacking the president for his, I thought, inappropriate discussion of this.”

Mr. Hobson also told the Columbus Dispatch that Speaker Pelosi and the congressional delegation urged Assad to curb the number of suicide bombers who cross the Syrian border into Iraq to “murder our troops and the Iraqi people.”

The Associated Press quoted Congressman Frank Wolf: “I don’t care what the administration says on this. You’ve got to do what you think is in the best interest of your country. I want us to be successful in Iraq. I want us to clamp down on Hezbollah.”

Congressman Robert Aderholt told the AP: “This is an area where we would disagree with the administration. None of us in the Congress work for the president. We have to cast our own votes and ultimately answer to our own constituents…I think there’s room that we can try to work with them as long as they know where we draw the line.”